LIVINGSTON, NJ — Health officials both locally and statewide are urging area residents to limit traveling and to gather in smaller groups over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend as COVID-19 continues to spread more rapidly with each passing day.

As of Wednesday, the Township of Livingston had a cumulative total of 856 cases among residents, marking the 200th new case since Nov. 2. Compared to the summer months, during which the Livingston Health Department (LHD) received a total of 68 positive test results from June 1 through Sept. 30, the township has recorded 307 new cases between Oct. 1 and Nov. 25.

During Monday’s Livingston Township Council meeting, all council members wished Livingston members a happy Thanksgiving while also encouraging them to consider the long-term risks of hosting larger gatherings.

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In response to inquiries from Livingston residents about what the township is doing to slow the spread of COVID-19, Mayor Rudy Fernandez said that enforcement and messaging about local protocols are currently the top priorities in order to “let people know this is serious and that they really need to take this seriously.”

 “Our health department is in constant contact with [Superintendent of Schools] Matt Block. going through their best practices and what they need to be doing; we’re in the process of getting outdoor signage […] throughout the town and will be putting information and recommendations on both the bulletin boards at the Library and at the community center as well as our website, Facebook and Twitter; and Matt Block is actually coming to our last December meeting,” said Fernandez. “Right now, we are attempting to put together a five on five [with the Livingston Board of Education] before the end of the year. Everybody recognizes how important this subject is, so everybody is trying to juggle around their schedules to make sure that happens.”

During the five-on-five meeting between the two governing bodies will also discuss programs on mental health that will be held in conjunction with the New Jersey School Boards Association.

He also announced that the township is working to establish a “reverse 911 call” to residents that will regularly update subscribed residents about local COVID-19 information via phone.

Additionally, the council reiterated that the Livingston Police Department has been asked to be on the lookout for parties being held indoors after hearing about several Halloween parties held at the high school level at the end of October.

“The executive order allows for some pretty hefty fines or jail,” said Fernandez. “We're not looking to do that; we're looking to just enforce the executive order and ensure that people aren't having these large parties. We feel there were a couple of Halloween parties that then, as a direct result of that, go to the high school, and these things have continued to increase the numbers [of COVID-19 cases].”

For more information about COVID-19 cases within Livingston Public Schools, CLICK HERE.

On Tuesday, Gov. Phil Murphy reported that there have been 10 new in-school outbreaks confirmed in New Jersey over the last week, leading to 30 new cases and a total of 269 cases of in-school transmission from 66 confirmed outbreak instances since the start of the 2020-2021 academic year. This data is provided on a weekly basis and will be updated early next week.

The caseload in New Jersey reached 317,905 on Wednesday, with 4,073 new positive patients. There were also 50 new deaths reported on Wednesday for a new total of 15,057 confirmed COVID-19 deaths and 1,812 “probable” deaths in New Jersey.

With the Thanksgiving weekend underway, Murphy once again urged smaller gatherings over these last few days of November.

“This Thanksgiving, spread gratitude, not COVID-19,” he said. “It’s not too late to change your plans for [Thanksgiving]. I know it’s difficult and heartbreaking to break with tradition, but small gatherings this Thanksgiving are the best way to protect your loved ones and ensure we can gather safely in the years to come.”

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